The Fifth Circuit’s Public Library Police

Wall Street Journal:

Seven library patrons in Llano County, Texas, population 21,000, are litigating the unshelving of 17 books. Amid public complaints, one county commissioner had urged the librarian to “pick her battles.” This was a no-no, says the lead opinion in Little v. Llano County. “If a government decisionmaker removes a book with the substantial motivation to prevent access to particular points of view, he or she violates the First Amendment,” writes Judge Jacques Wiener, a George H.W. Bush appointee.

Libraries cull their stacks regularly. In Judge Wiener’s view, what matters is intent. If the Llano County librarian genuinely changed her mind about the value of Farting Larry, she could trash him. Yet she testified, the judge says, that she “ordered the ‘butt and fart’ books because she thought based on her training that they were age appropriate, and her ‘opinion about the appropriateness of these books as the head librarian never changed.’”

Perhaps Llano County might have hired a librarian who better shares the local sensibility. Still, Judge Wiener’s interpretation enshrines librarians as a priestly class whose opinions on children’s books must be accepted as final. In reality, they’re government employees, hired by taxpayers and voters to do a job. This is not censorship, in a land where virtually any book can be bought online.